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Long cold spell to invade Minnesota

A relatively mild January will end abruptly on Friday as an arctic air mass moves into Minnesota, triggering a cold spell that will last at least two weeks.

Temperatures in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the Twin Cities’ official reporting station, has yet to drop below freezing this month. But the mercury will drop into negative territory by Saturday morning and low temperatures will be at or below zero for the first full week of February, the National Weather Service said.

Although not a record, the low of minus 11 degrees forecast for Monday will be frightening at the end of a month that has seen temperatures 7.5 degrees above average and not featured only three days with average daily temperatures below normal. The average high temperature for the week is 25 degrees and average low temperatures are in the mid-teens, the Minnesota Bureau of Climatology said.

“It will be a shock to the system because it’s been so mild,” said Pete Boulay of the Minnesota State Bureau of Climatology. “Winter is back.”

The Twin Cities normally see 10 nights with readings at or below zero in January, but the month “was much warmer than usual,” Boulay said. However, December was much colder than normal, including the season’s lowest temperature of -12 degrees recorded on December 23.

The hottest reading this month was 37 degrees on January 15-16; the lowest was 0 on Jan. 7 and 8, according to the state bureau of climatology. Some readings in the suburbs have fallen below zero a few times this month.

A thick snowpack — 10 inches on the ground as of Tuesday — with another inch or two possible Wednesday and Thursday is helping set the stage for frigid weather that promises to drag through St. Paul’s Winter Carnival, which begins on Thursday and continues until February 5.

“The deeper the snow, the deeper the cold,” Boulay said.

Arctic air often brings sunny skies, but not this time. Cloudy conditions are forecast at least through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

Next week’s highs will be in the single digits, the National Weather Service said.

“It’s not unusual,” Boulay said. “You just expect it.”

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